Novo Nordisk Shares Remain Steady Amid Concerns Over Weight Loss Drugs and Rare Eye Condition

Concerns Over Weight Loss Drugs and Rare Eye Condition | Healthcare 360 Magazine


Novo Nordisk shares remained stable on Thursday, despite a critical report from Harvard Medical School linking the company’s weight loss drugs to a rare eye condition. The Danish pharmaceutical giant’s stock experienced a brief dip in early morning trading but recovered, rising by 0.1% by 11:17 a.m. London time.

Study Highlights Potential Risks of Weight Loss Drugs

The Harvard study suggested that semaglutide, an active ingredient in Novo Nordisk’s popular weight loss drugs Ozempic and Wegovy, might increase the risk of nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), a condition that can lead to vision loss in one eye. The research indicated that patients with type 2 diabetes or obesity prescribed semaglutide were more likely to develop NAION compared to those not on the medication.

Analysts were quick to downplay the significance of the study. Emmanuel Papadakis, a Deutsche Bank analyst, remarked that the evidence presented in the research was of “very low” quality and featured “very wide error bars.” He suggested that the worst-case scenario would likely be an update to the label warning section of the drugs, a move he described as “hardly a game-changer.” Papadakis emphasized that semaglutide medications are considered among the safest therapeutic classes in industry history.

Novo Nordisk’s Response

A Novo Nordisk spokesperson responded to the study, stating that NAION is not listed as an adverse drug reaction in the approved labels for semaglutide. The spokesperson also highlighted methodological limitations of the Harvard study, including the small sample size of patients with type 2 diabetes or obesity exposed to semaglutide. “Patient safety is a top priority for Novo Nordisk, and we take all reports about adverse events from use of our medicines very seriously,” the spokesperson affirmed.

Despite the study’s findings, the popularity of Ozempic and Wegovy has propelled Novo Nordisk to become Europe’s most valuable company, surpassing Denmark’s total gross domestic product last year. Wegovy, in particular, has demonstrated additional health benefits beyond weight loss drugs and blood sugar regulation. In March, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Wegovy for reducing the risk of heart disease.

Ongoing Scrutiny and Future Research

The weight loss drugs have not been without controversy. Some patients have reported severe side effects, including stomach paralysis and suicidal ideation. Additionally, a study by the University of British Columbia identified an increased risk of bowel obstruction and pancreatitis among users. The labels for Ozempic and Wegovy already include warnings about these conditions, as well as potential vision changes.

The Harvard study analyzed data from 16,827 patients collected between December 2017 and November of last year. Researchers called for further investigation to determine if semaglutide is a direct cause of the eye condition. The study underscores the importance of ongoing vigilance and research to ensure the safety and efficacy of widely used medications.

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